Law Named After Jersey City Police Officer Melvin Vincent Santiago Who Was Shot and Killed While Responding to Drugstore Robbery

Greenstein Committee

Law Named After Jersey City Police Officer Melvin Vincent Santiago Who Was Shot and Killed While Responding to Drugstore Robbery

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Linda R. Greenstein and Senator Sandra B. Cunningham that would expand the scope of law governing registration of security guards was signed into law today. The law, designated as “Detective Melvin Vincent Santiago’s Law,” is named after 23-year-old Jersey City Police Officer Melvin Santiago who was fatally shot while responding to a report of an armed robbery at a Walgreens. He was killed by a gun that was taken from the armed security guard by the suspect at the drugstore.

“In order to prevent any future injuries or fatalities of this tragic nature, we must apply the unfortunate but valuable lessons we have learned from such a senseless loss,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Middlesex, Mercer), Chair of the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. “The bill was drafted with that purpose in mind, and is intended to improve security operations across New Jersey to ensure greater safety for our security officers as well as the public. I am pleased that the Governor has signed it into law.”

The law, S-2977, extends the Security Officer Registration Act (SORA), which strictly regulates security guards employed by security guard companies, to include security guards employed by private companies, or in-house security guards.

Specifically, under the new law, any person employed as an in-house security officer who is required to carry a firearm in the performance of his or her duties by a company that maintains a proprietary or in-house security function is required to register with the Superintendent of State Police and complete an education and training course. Under existing law, only security officers who are employed by a “security officer company” that furnishes security services to other entities are required to register with the superintendent.

“Jersey City lost a fine police officer at the early stages of his career, but we cannot allow his tragic death to be in vain nor can we risk losing any other lives in this heartbreaking way,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “By expanding regulations surrounding security personnel registration and training, we can ensure that the individuals who are entrusted with the safety of others are properly qualified and prepared to act in the face of any emergent situation. This law will act to enhance public safety as well as the safety of the security officers themselves, who put their own lives at risk to serve and protect others.”

Under existing law, renewal of the certificate of registration for security officers is required every two years. The new law requires registration to be renewed every two years for an unarmed security officer position and every year by an applicant for an armed security officer position. It also requires that each applicant complete an eight-hour refresher course of classroom instruction taught by a certified security officer instructor.

The law also requires a security officer who carries a firearm in the performance of his duties to wear a standardized uniform as prescribed by the superintendent under current rules and regulations. SORA Level 2 armed security officers will now also be required to wear on their uniform a badge indicating their level, and armed security officers who wear company-issued shirts will be required to have the word “security” printed on the reverse side of the shirt.

Under the law, security officers will be required, when carrying a firearm in the performance of their duties, to secure the weapon in a level 3 or higher security holster. Handgun holsters are ranked from level 1 to level 4 based on how secure the weapon is in the holster. A weapon in the least secure level 1 holster can be easily withdrawn by the officer or another person. More secure level 2 holsters, which include a “thumb break”, or safety strap retention system, generally are used by police officers. Level 3 and 4 holsters have additional security features.

The bill cleared the Senate with a vote of 39-0 and the Assembly with a vote of 79-0. The law takes effect on the first day of the sixth month following enactment.